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Courtesy Naomi Yasuda
Celebrity manicurist Naomi Yasuda takes pride in creating interesting and intricate designs on the smallest of canvases — fingernails.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 8/30/2012 11:46:11 AM ET 2012-08-30T15:46:11

In our series "What Beauty Means to Me," women from different backgrounds share their thoughts on aging, modern challenges, and of course, their makeup and skin care secrets. This week, we interview manicurist-to-the stars Naomi Yasuda.

When Madonna, Alicia Keys, Eve and other celebrities want their nails done, a regular French manicure simply won’t do. They call on nail artist Naomi Yasuda to create unique designs on the smallest of spaces.

“I did Madonna's nails for her Super Bowl performance this year,” Yasuda, 28, told TODAY.com. “Words cannot describe how excited I was. It was one of the most memorable jobs in my career. Also, I loved working with Steven Tyler. I did his nails for an Aerosmith concert. He invited me to his concert and when I saw his nails on the huge screen I almost cried.”

Yasuda’s creations include everything from ice cream cones, M&Ms, New York icons like the Empire State Building, jewels, stripes and animal prints. Manicures take anywhere from a half hour to two hours, and the hard work pays off: Her recent work for DJ Roxy Cottontail featuring images of Beyonce and Jay-Z was blogged about approvingly by Beyonce herself.

“My goal is for the general public to become familiar with nail art and see how intricate and creative it can be,” she said.

The native of Japan got her start in nail art there, where it has been popular for the past 10 to 15 years.

“I always liked doing my own nails,” Yasuda said. “Then I started doing my sisters’ and friends’ nails. Soon after, I realized I was really good at it.”

Courtesy Naomi Yasuda
From cupcakes to art deco-inspired designs, Naomi Yasuda goes all out for her manicures.

Though Yasuda has attempted other media, she enjoys creating her artwork on fingernails the most. “I tried painting a couple times,” she said, “but I prefer a tiny canvas like nails.”

Yasuda moved to New York five years ago after visiting the city just once. “I was so inspired and amazed by people’s energy, fashion and the diversity. But I didn’t speak any English and I didn’t know anyone in New York.”

Through her work at the Hello Beautiful salon in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as well as her Web site naomiyasudanyc.com, Yasuda found a niche. Her first famous client was singer Keri Hilson, for whom she designed neon pink leopard nails for a magazine photo shoot.

“Keri's makeup artist also worked with Lady Gaga as well,” she said. “I got a chance to work with Gaga through her. I must say, I was really lucky because I have met most of my celebrity clients through my clients from my salon.”

Last year, Yasuda worked with Barney's New York for a Lady Gaga pop-up shop and made suitably exotic nails for the fashion-forward star. “I created four different press-on nail tips and two kinds of minx nails,” she said. “Also, I handmade 1,500 nail tips (for the Barney's installation). It was so much work but they are the most unique and crazy nails I've done yet.”

Yasuda believes beautiful nails enhance people’s overall appearance. “Nails are very important parts of our beauty, because even when you have no makeup, even when your hair is not done, your nails still make a striking statement.”  

Her own, of course, don’t stay very nice for long. “My nails always get ruined by doing other people’s nails,” she said. “I like to change my own nails every two weeks … I personally like simple nails for myself. Sometimes simple nails are the way to go.” 

iam.beyonce.com
On Aug. 5, Beyonce posted a photo of Naomi's fun, bright manicure — featuring photos of the singer and her husband Jay-Z — to her Tumblr.

Fingernails, for Yasuda, are the ultimate accessory.

“I always think having beautiful nails (or) nail art is like having a piece of jewelry on your fingers,” she said. “You can express your personality and style through your nails. Having beautiful and healthy nails makes you feel beautiful. That feeling gives you confidence, and confidence makes you happy. It makes you look even better.”

What are your favorite beauty products?
“I love Helena Rubinstein Magic Concealer ($37, amazon.com). It covers dark under eye circles very well. Also, MAC Liquidlast Liner ($18.50, maccosmetics.com) — this eyeliner is long lasting and I like the texture of it. It looks like latex after you put it on your eyes.”

Is there one thing you absolutely must do before ever leaving the house?
“Perfume. I tend to (like) woody, oriental perfumes like Kilian.”

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Who’s your style icon?
“My friends and clients. I get to really know them and admire all that they accomplish.”

How do you manage your hair?
“I have very long hair. It’s very important for me to get hair treatments. I do it once a week and don't sleep with wet hair.”

Skin care/makeup tip to live by:
“Take off all your makeup before you go to bed — no matter how late.”

More from this series:
Beauty secrets from an 80-year-old ‘goddess’ of style
Beverly Johnson: I didn’t want my daughter to model

Born with just two fingers, mom finds beauty in imperfection

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: Hair evolution: Lady Gaga's most memorable 'dos

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  1. The bow-shaped 'do that started a phenomenon

    From a hair bow to a meat hat to a disc-shaped topper, Lady Gaga has sported some seriously dramatic looks atop her head. Check out an evolution of the pop star's ever-changing hairdos.

    October 2008: On "Good Day New York" at Fox Studios in New York City. (Charles Eshelman / FilmMagic via Instyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Pretty in pink

    September 2009: At the Marc Jacobs fashion show during Spring 2010 Fashion Week in New York City.

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  3. Full curls with an art deco accent

    November 2009: The launch of V61, hosted by V Magazine and Marc Jacobs in New York City.
    Original Instyle.com story

    (Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images via Instyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Oversized button updo

    June 2009: Arriving at the Manchester Academy in Manchester, England. (Eamonn and James Clarke / Abaca via Instyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Arched bangs with a braided headband

    June 2009: The MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto.


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    November 2009: On the German TV show "Wetten Dass?" in Braunschweig, Germany. (Axel Heimken / AP via Instyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Defined, baby blond curls

    December 2009: At her performance for Queen Elizabeth II in Blackpool, England.


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  8. Neon yellow ombre waves

    January 2010: At the 2010 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. (Jason Merritt  / Getty Images via Instyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. White hot shoulder-grazing locks

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  10. Poodle-puff pompadour with lavender bows

    February 2010: Leaving the Mayfair Hotel in London. (Neil Mockford  / FilmMagic via Instyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Cloud-like Marie Antoinette updo

    February 2010: At The Brit Awards in London.


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  12. Crayola-tinted ringlets

    March 2010: At Heathrow Airport in London. (Matrix / Flynet via Instyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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    April 2010: Arriving at the Tokyo-Narita Airport in Tokyo.


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  14. Loose grey waves

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    June 2010: Attending a New York Mets game at Citi Field in New York City.


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Video: Fall beauty report: Hottest hair, makeup, nail trends

  1. Closed captioning of: Fall beauty report: Hottest hair, makeup, nail trends

    >>> this morning on bobbie's beauty buzz, we have fall trends and fall looks.

    >> an aies cost-freeway to update your look is to section your hair and part it down the middle. it's so easy. giselle, a lot of different models have their hair sectioned in all different ways. we have a couple pictures of kim kardashian to show you it's really easy but can really change your look.

    >> getting to hair accessories. they're in and they're back. when it came to the runway, we saw a lot it have.

    >> at the drugstore, can you find runway worthy hair accessories. honestly, for just a few dollars dollars, this is a great accent for hair day. this is the called the perfect pony. i have this hidden in my hair. it's how you get a really great, thicker looking pony tail like the runway looks. it's just a silicone base. it looks like a tube sticking out. then you can wrap your hair.

    >> does that does not look good. i did not go there. you're going to put that on my head?

    >> yes.

    >> all you do is section the top part of your hair and apply this at the base. stop, natalie.

    >> oh, no.

    >> and then you pull all the hair up into your pony tail . you're killing me. and basically then you can wrap this and you great really full pony that you see.

    >> i still think it's bizarre.

    >> brows. brows.

    >> they now send beaded brows down the runway, and these girls have these really exaggerated sparkle brows.

    >> we're not going to do that.

    >> no. but you really should frame your brows this season. instead of a lot of heavy eye shadows, you can use anastasia's kit. i like the smash box to go. if you get close, you'll see me. i have no make-up on. i'm going to update my look. it helps you draw in faux hair because of the tip ingle. and then on the other end you can use the gel to actually live your brow and you can see on me that it really makes a big difference.

    >> since we're running out of time , i'm going to leave you with one brow down and one undone. tell us about the lip colors for fall.

    >> this is a first look chanel is launching a look and max is launching this new blackberry color.

    >> it looks dark, right?

    >> but really when you have --

    >> finish your lips.

    >> when you have lighter eye make-up, the darker lip is all you need. if you're going to go with a plum lip --

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